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Global Carbon Emissions Reached Record High in 2018

Energy
Global Carbon Emissions Reached Record High in 2018
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Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit a record high in 2018, the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) found. Emissions rose 1.7 percent to reach a historic 33.1 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide. It was the highest rate of emissions growth since 2013 and 70 percent higher than the average increase since 2010.


The record emissions were caused by increasing energy demand due partly to a growing economy. Ironically, climate change also played a role in sending more global warming gasses into the atmosphere. That is because nearly a fifth of the increased energy demand was driven by extreme cold and hot temperatures around the world that led people to rely more on heating and cooling systems.

"It seems like a vicious cycle," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told The Financial Times. "Heating and cooling are one of the biggest drivers of energy demand growth."

Overall, energy consumption increased by 2.3 percent, almost two times the average growth rate since 2010. While renewable energy grew, it did not grow fast enough to meet the increased demand. Nearly 70 percent of the growth was met by fossil fuels.

"[D]espite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts," Birol said, according to Reuters.


One of the most alarming findings was the persistent use of coal, the report found:

In fact, coal-fired power plants were the single largest contributor to the growth in emissions observed in 2018, with an increase of 2.9%, or 280 Mt, compared with 2017 levels, exceeding 10 Gt for the first time.

Further, the IEA calculated the contribution of fossil fuels to global temperature increases for the first time and found that coal had been responsible for more than 0.3 degrees Celsius of the one degree Celsius rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times, making it the fuel that has most contributed to global warming.


"We are in deep trouble," Stanford University Earth System Science Prof. Rob Jackson told The Washington Post of the report. "The climate consequences are catastrophic. I don't use any word like that very often. But we are headed for disaster, and nobody seems to be able to slow things down."

The rise in coal use was mostly driven by newer coal plants in Asia. These plants average 12 years old compared to a typical life-span for coal plants of 40 years. However, the U.S. saw the greatest increase in demand for oil and natural gas compared to the rest of the world.

In general, the U.S., China and India were the leaders both in terms of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions. The three countries accounted for almost 70 percent of the increased energy demand and contributed 85 percent to the rise in emissions. India's emissions rose by 4.8 percent and China's by 2.5 percent. In the U.S. emissions rose by 3.1 percent despite decreasing the year before. Emissions fell in Germany, Japan, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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